To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate

Happy New Year! 

To start off 2017, as the weather has taken a turn for the freezing, I thought I’d start by discussing an all important topic – Vaccinations. Although a heavy subject, it is one that is regularly discussed in relation to pregnancy.

‘Vaccines’, ‘Jabs’, ‘Shots’ or ‘Injections’ – Whatever you call them, throughout your life you will more than likely have to make decisions on whether to have them or not. For the first part of your life this decision lies with your parents as you’re just a little too young to understand the medical advantages or disadvantages of them. As someone who is not a fan of being ill, I have always had vaccines that are recommended to me and this has been no different during my pregnancy. So far, I have made the decision to have the flu jab and a few weeks ago I had my Whooping Cough, Polio, Tetanus and Diphtheria vaccines. Over the years this subject has surfaced in both national news as well as all over social media attracting some rather divided opinions. Some parents arguing it causes long term health damage and others arguing that the disease the vaccination is created to prevent is far worse than any side effect. The biggest cases claim that vaccinations can cause autism – this is a serious subject and one that could easily sway a decision. With so much advice, let’s have a look at some discussions, including my own personal reasons for and against vaccinating your children.

Whilst looking for some online discussions, I came across ‘www.vaccines.procon.org'(1) an American website that set out a table for the pros and cons of vaccinations. Clearly marking out each side of the argument, the pros list contained points about ‘vaccines can save children’s lives’, ‘vaccines protect future generations’ and ‘vaccines eradicated smallpox and have nearly eradicated other diseases such as polio’ – a very strong set of arguments in my eyes. Whereas on the other hand, the cons list argues that ‘vaccines can cause serious and sometimes fatal side effects’, ‘vaccines are unnatural, and natural immunity is more effective than vaccination’ as well as ‘diseases that vaccines target have essentially disappeared’. As someone who had a family member die from a disease that we now vaccinate worldwide I can honestly say the stories from their battle was enough to make my decision very clear. In the 1950’s there were 45,000 cases of Polio in the UK (2) and my Great Uncle John was one of them.

In 1955, John contracted Polio aged just 7. Contracted in a local swimming pool, John’s illness was originally confused for pneumonia. He spent years in and out of several hospitals such as Royal Gwent in Newport from the age of 7 to 14 and St Laurence Hospital in Chepstow where he spent 4 of his years. During this, for a time my Papy and Great Auntie Lesley weren’t allowed to go to school as no-one was sure whether Polio was contagious. He was moved out of public school and attended a special school where he passed a handful of ‘O-levels’ and was even Head Boy! As this was during a time where the Polio vaccination was not an available option, John’s illness was tragically unavoidable and painful for this family and friends around him. John spent most of his years in a wheelchair after becoming paralysed from the neck down and for a time had to breathe with the aid of the iconic ‘Iron Lung’. For John, Polio led to developing epilepsy which eventually lead to his death at just 25 years old.

It’s no surprise that losing a sibling has affected my Papa all his life and he never fails to talk ever so fondly of John before his illness with the everlasting reminder to ‘be patient when people are unwell’. John would have been 70 this year and despite my Papy having an enormous understanding, patience and awareness of illness, it all came at a heartbreaking price. With this in always in mind, my Mother has chosen to channel all her energy outside of work to volunteering with Rotary, who regularly raise money to help fund Polio drops in the fight to eradicate the disease worldwide.

Aside from the personal reasons for vaccinating, as a mother-to-be, I often stop to think about life beyond the world of my unborn child. Illness is something that can be easily spreadable by accident, especially among those who haven’t been vaccinated. Now I know there is a chance that it never happens to my child, that they might never encounter anyone who has these any of these illnesses but what happens if my child contracts one of those diseases? What care is available to them? Is that illness even treatable? The questions that fill my mind are endless. Vaccinated or not, you are still at risk of picking up the infection or disease but that vaccination could be the difference between life and death. This has been a very tough subject to talk about and not a light-hearted one at all but has become something I have come to feel very strongly about and will always be a topic that will be related to pregnancy.

To leave on a positive here are some sentimental photograph of my Papa and Great Uncle growing up.

papy-john

I know today has been a little more of a serious subject than normal but thank you for sticking with me.

One Curious Mother x

 

Bibliography/Website links:

  1. http://vaccines.procon.org/
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/east/series1/post-polio-syndrome.shtml

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